Record nesting season for sea turtles on Broward beaches

A baby loggerhead turtle, the most common species to nest on Broward County beaches this year.
A baby loggerhead turtle, the most common species to nest on Broward County beaches this year. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Turtles really dig Broward County beaches. They built a record number of nests there this year.

“We were busy, but it’s all good,” Derek Burkholder, director of the Broward County sea turtle conservation program, said in a release. “We saw the most nests ever in the history of the program, so we don’t mind being busy.”

The 3,567 documented nests ranked as the most since the program began in 1981, topping the previous high in 2012 by 27 nests. It was a 327 jump from last year’s nesting season, which runs from March through the end of October on Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Burkholder, who is a research scientist with Nova Southeastern University’s Halmos College of Natural Science and Oceanography, said it wasn’t yet clear if there was a specific reason for the increase. But he and Stephanie Kedzuf, a natural resource specialist with Broward County, pointed to a conservation efforts enacted over the last few decades.

During the season, volunteers scour beaches to identify, rope off and protect nests and also to help hatchlings make it to the ocean. The public is also better informed on threats to sea turtles and many buildings and homes along the coast have changed lighting, which can discourage females from coming ashore to nest and also disorient hatchlings, luring them inland to certain death instead of out to sea.

Coastal lighting remains a challenge but one that can be addressed, Kedzuf said.

“Some ways to reduce the amount of artificial lighting near the beach include turning off unnecessary lights, using ‘turtle-friendly’ red or amber LED bulbs and closing curtains at night,” she said in the release issued by NSU.

At least three species of turtles nested on Broward beaches, all classified as threatened or endangered:

▪  3,400 loggerhead nests.

▪  137 green turtle nests.

▪  27 leatherback nests.

▪  3 nests of unconfirmed species.